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(15 August 2013) Following an earlier study and a forum on the role of the business sector in combating poverty, the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre has submitted ‘A practical guide on how businesses can help the underprivileged’ (the Guide) to the Chief Secretary’s Office and the Societal Engagement Task Force of the Commission on Poverty.
To serve as a quick reference for the business sector, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the Guide suggests three crucial success factors and six important elements in the planning and execution of businesses’ poverty reduction measures by referring to the cases of 11 corporations, including large companies as well as SMEs, which were shared at the poverty forum jointly organised by the Centre and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service in June.
Chairman of the Centre Dr Donald Li said, “The poverty study released by the Centre has stimulated extensive discussions within the community. Clearly, most of us share the same thoughts that businesses need to depart from the traditional means of providing donations and make better use of their strengths and resources, such as network, experience and know-how, in assisting the underprivileged.”
Though there is no hard and fast rule for helping the deprived, the Guide identifies three factors that are crucial to the success of poverty alleviation projects by businesses.
“Passion, partnership and sustainability are of utmost importance when it comes to the role of the business sector in poverty reduction. The projects should first be driven by a passionate heart, executed through partnering with suitable social services organisations, and sustained by a belief in charity and philanthropy, which means giving the wealth acquired back to society,” said the Centre’s Vice-chairman and Convenor of the poverty study Lau Ming-wai.
In addition to the three success factors, the Guide lists six important elements in the planning and execution of poverty reduction projects by companies after reviewing the cases and ideas of the 11 corporations. They are:
1) Positioning – Before launching any initiatives to help the underprivileged, companies should first make clear the reasons, objectives and motivation of such measures;
2) Targeting – A thorough understanding of social issues could help companies identify their target groups and better manage the service scope of their projects;
3) Strategising – To achieve a win-win solution where the businesses and individuals could both benefit for sustainability, companies are advised to merge their poverty reduction strategies into daily operations, depending on their own competitive advantages;
4) Resourcing – Companies should assess the resources, such as professional skills, training and job opportunities, etc., that could be offered to the target groups;
5) Communication – Listening, exchanging and communicating with the target groups could help companies better address the diverse needs of the target groups by enhancing or modifying the existing projects; and
6) Evaluation – Monitoring and evaluation on a regular basis are essential for assessing project performance and effectiveness. Areas for evaluation could include the comments of the target groups, as well as the participation and feedback of staff members, etc.
The Guide has been submitted to the Government for consideration in mapping out a strategy to tackle the poverty problem in Hong Kong.
“The Commission on Poverty is expected to set Hong Kong’s first official poverty line in September, which is no doubt a very important first step. Nevertheless, we need more than just a poverty line to tackle this pressing issue in order to improve people’s livelihood and uphold the city’s competitiveness.” Dr Li said.
“We believe the power to alleviate poverty ultimately rests with the necessary policies being put in place and the Government plays a critical role in this. As suggested in the poverty study, the Government should consider providing incentives to companies that contribute to the community to encourage them to participate in poverty alleviation work,” Mr Lau added.
With an aim of understanding the poverty issue in Hong Kong and providing constructive recommendations on how the business sector can extend the breadth and depth of its poverty reduction work, a research report entitled ‘Poverty alleviation – what can the business sector do’ was released by the Centre on 29 May 2013, followed by a Forum held on 14 June 2013, which was well attended by more than 200 policymakers, academia and industrial experts.